August 21, 2017

Who Inspires You? Inspirational Blogs

EuropeanTravelista has been live for a month and boy have I learned a lot in a very short amount of time.  Since I first decided to start this new venture last fall I have had to learn how to write (??), about WordPress, Studiopress templates, widgets, SEO, how to market a blog, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and more.  Most of this list is still very much a work in progress and some I really have no clue what it is – hello StumbleUpon and Twitter!!  But I am learning . . . slowly.

Personal Development Blog

Inspiration by photosteve101, on Flickr"

Since I started reading and reading and reading travel blogs, I have found an amazing amount of people who have stretched themselves and set out to do the seemingly impossible.  I have spent time being afraid and more time being inspired.  This little endeavor has stretched my limits. . . Yes at 52 years old I am stepping out of my comfort zone and it feels good!

I just finished reading a post by a very inspirational blogger and it got me thinking about the blogs I have discovered and how they have inspired me.  So here is my list of inspirational blogs.

Where is Jenny?

Living your dream is hard.  It takes strength of character and a fortitude that a lot of us don’t have to stand up to family and friends that think your dream is irresponsible or selfish.  The reactions received when our dreams don’t stack up to the “norm” are difficult to face but Jenny is doing just this.  She is willing to take a deep look inward to figure out her life.  She shares this introspection on her site.  Check out her “Bucket List”.  It may just inspire you to make one of your own and then go after it!

Breakaway Backpacker

Jaime is young man that was forced to grow up pretty quickly.  One night, he made a mistake but the great thing about Jaime is he learned from it.  I admire Jaime for being strong enough to face the challenges and being so willing to share it on the web.  His honesty is something we all could learn from.  Jaime is taking off on his “Breakaway” journey in 5 short days.  I for one am looking forward to reading about his adventure as it unfolds.  Bravo Jaime and Happy Travels!

World Travel for Couples

I just read their blog “Making the Decision: Why We Went on a RTW Trip” and that was the inspiration for this post.  I have found a lot of blogs focusing on Round the World travel but this one has spoken to me.  My heart is still pounding from reading their most recent post.  I have known for awhile that I need to travel.  I have even known for awhile that I need to spend an extended amount of time away from home exploring some portion of this world.  I just have not gotten up the guts to actually do something about it.  It is still just in my mind.  Thanks to Adam and Megan I am now ready to put my dream on paper and attach a date to it!  Then I will set deadlines so that I am ready when that date arrives.

Thank you to all you bloggers out there who have inspired me.  Whether you have inspired me to travel or to be a better writer, you have all inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and reach for more!

Who inspires you?

Off the Beaten Path – – French Basque Region

Since I am writing a travel blog, it is probably no surprise to anyone that I love to travel and since this blog site is dedicated to European travel it is no stretch to know that I love Europe.  This love has taken me to many wonderful and inspirational locations.  Some of them are the tried and true tourist areas and others are lesser known and less traveled areas, at least to Americans.

I find it interesting that Americans tend to spend their time in more well-known destinations – Paris; Triad in Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice; London; Munich – but don’t venture to some of the lesser known areas.  I am not sure why this is the case but I wonder if the distance has something to do with it.  Do some travelers from the US feel their European trip is a once in a lifetime and they must cram as much in as possible?  Or is it because they are trendy spots and ones they must visit or they are just not “with it”? 

No matter the reason, I truly enjoy getting “off the beaten path” and enjoying areas not on the usual tourist track.   It is one of these that I want to spend some time talking about in this post. 

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit one of these “off the beaten path” destinations in France.  I spent a week in the French Basque region specifically the area between Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz.  Unfortunately this was a very quick trip and I didn’t get do some extensive exploring but I came away wanting to spend more time in this beautiful less traveled area. 

Basque vista Southwest France

Basque Hills

The Southwest corner of France, from Bayonne to St. Jean de Luz, offers something for everyone.  Whether you want beautiful beaches or rolling green hills, sleepy villages or towns of international renown; you can find it all in this striking region. 

The coastal villages offer dramatic sandy beaches, fishing ports, beautiful architecture and storied histories.

Bayonne France

Bayonne

Bayonne is the capital of the region and is known for its narrow streets, cathedral and chocolate.  Bayonne is known as the first city in France to make chocolate and the chocolate industry dates back to the early 1600’s.  Wandering the streets will offer ample opportunities to sample the wonderful chocolate of Bayonne.

Biarritz Seaview France

Biarritz

Once a whaling village, Biarritz is now a resort to the rich and famous.  Biarritz was the summer home of Eugenie and Napoleon and you can still see the impact of this in the stunning Hotel du Palais.  Biarritz offers shopping, scenic views, museums and more.  You will enjoy wandering the charming old town.  After enjoying the sights which include a lighthouse and a Chocolate museum, you may want to spend some time in the casino before turning in for the night.

St Jean du Luz French Basque region

St Jean du Luz by marsupilami92, on Flickr

St. Jean de Luz is an enchanting town offering a sandy beach, picturesque harbor, outdoor cafes, architectural gems and a quaint town square.  St. Jean de Luz is another great strolling town with beautiful narrow streets. 

Basque Farm in Southwest France

Basque Farm

The French Basque have a well preserved culture and once you start moving inland you sense a more Basque feel to the environs.   Moving inland you will find rolling green hills, peace and quiet, tradition and villages called “most beautiful villages in France.”

Scenic Basque Country France

Scenic Basque Country

Driving inland you will meet charming villages like Ascain, Sare and Ortillopitz.  The storybook quality of this area make drives through the region an amazing journey.  The discoveries you will find include churches, distinctive Basque architecture, lush countryside, vineyards, farms, pilgrimage routes and spectacular vistas.  If you are a walker, you will be able to find many walking routes.

This section of France left a definite impression on me and I intend on returning.  What “off the beaten path” destinations have impacted you?

Help with a Mystery Picture

How many of you have gone on a trip, taken tons of pictures,  come home and are not able to identify one or more of them?  It seems that no matter how many times you go over them or retrace your every step, you still cannot figure out what or where that picture is.  Frustrating?  Very.  Happen often?  Unfortunately, too often! 

I sure hope I am not the only that has this issue and I hope someone out there can help me with a dilemma.  Recently I was going through some pictures and found one that I just cannot identify.  I know it is in France, somewhere between Bordeaux and St. Jean de Luz. 

Below is a picture of a lovely garden but I have no clue its name or the city it is in.  Can anyone out there help me out?

5 Cities to Take a Walk In

A fairly recent new love of mine is walking tours.  My love for walking tours began when my daughter went off to college and I needed to get out of my empty nest!  Since I live in the San Francisco bay area, my husband and I headed off and enjoyed a fantastic walking tour of Nob Hill.  Since then I have enjoyed many walking tours and look forward to new walking adventures in any city I visit. 

To me, a walking tour allows you to really get to know a neighborhood at a much slower pace.  Since you are walking the amount of area covered is more limited and allows for a more in depth look into the subject of the walk.  I have found the guides to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject.  You can find walking tours in larger cities covering a vast range of topics.

So to inspire you to walk a bit, I picked 5 European cities to begin a list of walking tour companies.  Guides from all companies listed are from all walks of life (no pun intended) including historians, literary experts, art historians, performers and authors.  Most of the tours listed do not require reservations, however, some do have minimums so look for this when deciding on the tour you will enjoy.

House of Parliament London

House of Parliament London by cookipediachef, on Flickr

London:

London Walks is a company offering many walking tours covering the neighborhoods of London.  Their tours include:  The Secrets of Westminster Abbey (From Opus Dei & Death’s Palace to The Da Vinci Code), The Beatles ‘In My Life’ Walk, The Hidden Pubs of Old London Town, Ghosts Gaslight & Guinness, and The Blitz – London at War. There is no need to book ahead and most walking tours are priced at 8£ (about $15).  The biggest problem with this company is which tour to choose??

Eiffel Tower Paris France

Eiffel Tower

Paris :

Paris Walks offers many walking tours covering many of the wonderful neighborhoods Paris is so famous for.  You could enjoy The Medieval Latin Quarter, The French Revolution,  a Fashion Walk, the Village of Montmartre, Hemingway’s Paris or even a Chocolate walking tour!  Again, the cost for these walking tours is quite reasonable at 12 € (about $16).  Sign me up for the Chocolate tour!  Is there a better way to enjoy chocolate and work off the calories at the same time?

Prague Czech Republic

Prague by photojenni, on Flickr

Prague:

Learn about all that makes Prague famous by taking one of these walking tours from Prague Walks: Prague Castle Walk, Jewish Prague, Ghost Walk, Pubs of the Old Town and the Best of Prague, which also includes lunch and a river cruise.  Prices range from 300 czk to 890 czk (from $17 to $50 for the Best of Prague).  A few of these tours have minimums so be sure to check their website for more details.  For you early risers, they offer a Good Morning Walk where you will be able to enjoy Prague before the crowds are even up!

Brandenburg Gate Berlin Germany

Brandenburg Gate Berlin by Bernt Rostad, on Flickr

Berlin:

Original Berlin Walks offers tours that help you discover Berlin and its storied history.  You may decide to choose one of these tours:  Discover Berlin Tour, Infamous Third Reich Sites, Jewish Life in Berlin and Nest of Spies Tours.  These tours are 12 € ($16).  While looking at their website, I noticed their guides list their favorite restaurants which I think is a real bonus. . . local recommendations can’t be beat!

Marienplatz Munich Germany

Marienplatz Munich by JoeDuck, on Flickr

Munich:

Munich Walk Tours offers a unique way to learn about Munich and its history and culture.  Walking tours include: Bavarian Food Tasting & Viktualienmarkt, Haunted Munich Ghost Tour, Beer and Brewery Tour (you are in Munich!), Hitler’s Munich (aka Third Reich Tour) and The City Walk & English Garden tour.  These tours range in price from 12 €22 € ($16-$30).  Munich Walk Tours also offer a couple bike riding tours, which is my next “adventure” to tackle.

 

So there you have it, 5 cities 5 different walking tour companies.  Try one, you won’t be disappointed.  This list is not complete and inclusion here does not mean an endorsement is being made.  I do, however, suggest you venture out and walk a bit. . .

Which walking tour would you most like to enjoy??

Hallstatt Calling??!?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well this picture has spoken to me! I’m not sure if it is a thousand words but it has been calling to me for many years. I mean, look at this picture and tell me you don’t want to visit even if it’s just for a cup of coffee? Coffee won’t do for me. I want to go spend days soaking in the peaceful ambiance of this gorgeous village. I want to sit by the lake and just breathe in the air. I want to spend time hiking in the forest, exploring the surrounding countryside and nearby villages. I just want to spend time here.

Hallstatt scenic lake outside Salzburg Austria

Hallstatt by kainet, on Flickr

Besides the obvious beauty, what makes Hallstatt so special? Hallstatt is on the banks of the Hallstättersee in the Salzkammergut area, which is about 55 miles south of Salzburg. This area has been around along time, there is evidence of settlers in the area prior to 1300 BC. The Hallstatt area was important for its salt trade which dates back 7,000 years. All this history is why it was named a UNESCO World Heritage sight in 1997.

Hallstatt Austria beautiful lake outside Salzburg

Hallstatt by Sanderovski & Linda, on Flickr

Besides enjoying the many views, hiking the local mountains or wandering around the lake, the area offers some pretty interesting things to do including:

  • The Prähistorisches Museum presents a detailed story of the people settling this area and includes an extensive collection of Celtic artifact all dating back to prehistoric times.
  • Marktarktplatz is the center of town and has a fine display of 16th-century buildings.
  • Skulls in the Bone House at St. Michael Chapel Hallstatt Austria

    Hallstatt Skulls by Infrogmation, on Flickr

    The Gothic Catholic Church, dating back to 1320, stands on a hill overlooking the lake and offers some fine altars and murals. Also visit the cemetery and Bone house in St Michael Chapel. Due to space limitations in the cemetery, the bones of the interred were dug up, cleaned and put on display in the Bone house. Macabre and interesting!

  • Visit a Salt Mine where you will learn all about the salt trade and mining. During your visit you will see a salt chamber, visit a subterranean salt lake and enjoy a ride on the largest wooden slide in Europe!
  • The Dachstein Ice Caves are a spectacular sight. During a tour of the cave you will see the Great Ice Chapel, King Arthurs Cave, frozen waterfalls and the Mammoth Cave.

Yes there is quite a bit to do in the area but I would just like to meander. Meander Hallstatt. Meander around the lake. Meander the hillsides. I would like to just be . . . there . . . in Hallstatt.

Beautiful Hallstatt Austria outside Salzburg

Hallstatt, Austria by Florin Draghici, on Flickr

I’d love to hear your comments about a picture that has spoken to you. Tell me about it?

Scenic Trains in Switzerland – – Glacier Express

Switzerland is known for many things including beautiful mountains, meadows teeming with wildflowers, many rivers and lakes, glaciers, chocolate and cheese.  Another that belongs on the list are the Scenic trains.  There are a number of scenic trains that traverse Switzerland from all angles.  One of the most impressive, and well known, is the Glacier Express.  I have a feeling that most everyone has heard about the Glacier Express but if you haven’t been able to enjoy a ride on this train, I can tell you it is as spectacular as everyone says.

Bridge along Glacier Express Switzerland

Bridge along Glacier Express

The Glacier Express first began running in June 1930 and continues running year-round today from St. Moritz to Zermatt (or vice versa).  An option is a seat on the panorama train car which were put into service during 2006. The Glacier Express journey takes about 7 hours and, according to glacierexpress.ch, takes you through “ . . . untouched mountain landscapes, glamorous health resorts, deep gorges, delightful valleys, 91 tunnels and across 291 impressive bridges.”  From your window seat you will be able to see the charm of the Swiss Alps rising high above the quaint villages.

Barn along Glacier Express Switzerland

View from Glacier Express

Scenery along Glacier Express train Switzerland

Scenery along Glacier Express

Glacier Express meadow Switzerland

Meadow from Glacier Express

I had heard that usually this train is pretty full but as we boarded our train in St. Moritz and settled in for our journey I noticed that our train was not very full.  We were very lucky because, on this October day, we almost had the car to ourselves and were able to go side-to-side as the scenery passed by.

Spectacular vista from train window Switzerland

Spectacular views in Switzerland!

Switzerland is a beautiful country and this train trip is an excellent representation of its stunning landscape.  During the trip, the scenery I saw from my window was bewitching!  As we crossed the countryside, I was in awe of the shear beauty of what was passing by my eyes.  The deep chasms running down each hillside where water had run off is awe-inspiring.  The power of water is incredible and you can see it first hand from your train car.  As our train crossed the Swiss heartland I was amazed by this immense and spectacular landscape.  From the lakes and forests to pastures filled with cows and wild flowers, beauty is everywhere. Equally amazing are the glaciers visible as the train makes its way towards its destination.  As we traveled along, I remember thinking “Who turned off the movie?” every time we passed through one of the 91 tunnels – – especially the longer ones.

Glacial river from train in Switzerland

Glacial river flowing beside Glacier Express

The train is 7 hours long and upon our arrival in Zermatt, I can’t say I wasn’t ready to get off but I also did not regret one minute of the trip.  In fact, I can’t wait until I am able to enjoy another of Switzerland’s scenic trains.

Stunning views from Glacier Express Switzerland

Stunning views from Glacier Express

Have you been on the Glacier Express?  I’d love to hear about your experience.  Have you been on any of the other scenic trains?  Which ones did you like best?

What’s Your Favorite European Hotel??

Recently I was reading an article in Travel+Leisure titled “500 World’s Best Hotels”. Even though I don’t usually stay in hotels that would be considered “the world’s best”, I scoured the list to see if there were any that I had stayed in. I actually found 4 but all of them in the US. So this got me thinking about the best hotel I have stayed in while traveling Europe and, from their list, which one(s) would I love to spend a few days in.

View from room at Palace Hotel Lucerne Switzerland

View from Palace Hotel

I would have to say that my favorite hotel I have stayed in, but was not on the list, was the Palace Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland. In full disclosure, I was in Switzerland as a guest of the Switzerland Tourist bureau, and I am quite sure that is why I was placed in a corner suite with amazing views of the nearby lake and mountains but I am not complaining! To say this hotel is stunning would be an understatement. The lobby is exquisite, breakfast was vast and yummy and the views from the hotel are breathtaking! As I am a huge fan of historic hotels, I was delighted to find the décor of my room keeping to the architecture of the building. The colors and fabric allowed the room’s warmth and comfort to come through.

Palace Hotel Lucerne Xwitzerland

Palace Hotel Lucerne

While scanning the list, I noticed one hotel that I have always wanted to stay at, Hotel de Crillon in Paris. Years ago I found this hotel on the web and put it on my list of hotels to stay at. Why has this hotel made my list? The location can’t be beat! I’m a sucker for old world architecture and the exterior of this hotel is exquisite. Being right on the Place de Concorde, the Crillon has witnessed much history. The building was built by King Louis XV in 1758 and it was here that France signed a treaty recognizing our Declaration of Independence! In my opinion, elegance and luxury seep from every corner of the hotel. Everything about this hotel invites me in!

Hotel de Crillon Paris France

Hotel de Crillon Paris

Another hotel that I would love to stay at, but did not make the list, is the Hotel du Palais in Biarritz. A few years ago, as a guest of the French Government Tourist Office, I had the opportunity to tour the hotel and enjoy dinner in the restaurant. This hotel also has quite a history attached to it as it was built in 1855 as the summer home of Eugenie and Napoleon III. In those days it was known as Villa Eugenie. The Hotel du Palais has maintained the style of the era both inside and out. The elegance shines from the gilt chandeliers to the sun glistening off the pool with its seaside vistas. Yes this would be an excellent hotel to spend a few relaxing days in while enjoying the charm of Biarritz and the surrounding environs.

Hotel du Palais Biarritz France

Hotel du Palais Biarritz

While I am sure I could enjoy staying at all the hotels on the list, I kept it to a few and would love to hear your favorites? Tell me about your favorite European hotel you’ve stayed in or would love to??

Hotel de Crillon picture by Bruce Tuten, on Flickr
Hotel du Palais picture by owlhere, on Flickr

Palace Hotel picture courtesy of Lucerne Tourism Ltd.

Inspiring Tuscany

As a travel blog writer I also read quite a few travel blogs.  The other day as I was looking at the site www.mymelange.net, I clicked on the ‘about us’ link to read about the author Robin Locker Lacey.  It was an interesting read but the one thing that struck me was her inspiration to travel.  She was inspired to travel when she saw the movie Under the Tuscan Sun.  I found this interesting because I too have been inspired by Under the Tuscan Sun but the book written by Frances Mayes.

Tuscan Countryside Italy Europe

Tuscan Countryside

To me, this book was an amazing love story but not the same kind of love story portrayed in the movie.  Unlike the movie, the book told the love story between Frances and a country, Italy, and specifically, Tuscany.  She fell in love with and embraced every aspect of Italy – food, neighbors, house, land, customs and history.  The trials and tribulations she experienced while remodeling her home were exciting to me and made me long for the opportunity to do the same.

Tuscan Farm Italy Europe

Tuscan Farm

At the time I read the book, I had already been bitten by the love of European travel and needed no motivation to plan my next trip.  This book added a different level to my travels.  Books and movies both allow us to live vicariously through someone else but after reading this book I also felt a little twinge of longing.  Under the Tuscan Sun so inspired me that I have added living in Europe to my very own “bucket list”.  I haven’t decided where I will live (after living with Santa Ana winds most of my life, I am not sure I can tolerate the mistral of Southern France) but I will live in Europe, for an expanded period of time, before I die and I have Under the Tuscan Sun to thank for this.

What books or movies have inspired you to travel?  Tell me about them . . .

Tuscan Countryside picture by Rachel Scott Halls

Tuscan Farm picture by Serge Melki